Last month, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced John Beilein as their new head coach. While only coaching at the collegiate level during his career, Beilein won at every school he coached, most notably at the University of Michigan.
While the 2018-2019 season proved abysmal for Cleveland, the new coaching staff set expectations much higher for the near future. Given the current roster and draft assets, it’s more than reasonable to say Cleveland will undergo a complete rebuild. After LeBron James’ departure, this was always the case.
Beilein rebuilt the Michigan Wolverines into championship contenders. When he first arrived there in 2007, the program stood as bottom feeders of the Big Ten Conference. After accepting the Cavaliers position, “rebuild” isn’t the phrase Beilein views this situation.
“Rebuild is not a word we’re going to use here, I saw it more as a renaissance,” Beilein said in his introductory press conference back in May. “Let’s just change and let’s see what we can through different trial and error. It was one [job] that was appealing to me. Every single time that we’ve decided to do this, some people would say with every job, and probably with this one, ‘What are you crazy? Why are you doing that? And I say exactly that, opportunity and challenges go hand in hand.”
Talent exists on this Cavaliers roster, but this “renaissance” will prove challenging, especially for Beilein’s first season.
Cavaliers current roster
Right now, the Cavaliers have 11 players under contract for next season. The roster includes all-star Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman, Collin Sexton, John Henson, Larry Nance Jr., Ante Zizic and Matthew Dellavedova.
JR Smith is currently under contract for next season, but given his contract allows for cap flexibility, he’ll likely be traded or released before July 1. Smith’s career in Cleveland commenced earlier last season, although no trade partners were found. In addition, the Cavaliers weren’t interested in a buyout.
Players like Knight and Henson were acquired last year in order to obtain additional draft picks. The Cavaliers front office made it clear they were willing to take on “poor” contracts if packaged with first and second-round picks. Knight was acquired through a trade with the Houston Rockets, while Henson was acquired through a trade with Milwaukee Bucks. (Henson didn’t appear in any games with Cleveland last year due to injury).
While their roster will feature rising players, like Osman and Sexton, the veterans should play an integral role in Beilein’s system. The team still runs through Love, who should be healthier by the start of next season. Players like Thompson, Clarkson and Dellavedova should continue to provide locker-room presence and contribute substantial roles next season.
Players like Marquese Chriss, David Nwaba, Nik Stauskas, Jaron Blossomgame and Deng Adel currently stand as pending free agents, according to Spotrac. There’s a possibility one or two of these players return in a small capacity for Cleveland next season, but given their two upcoming first-round picks and free agency, it’s not likely.
Stauskas has the highest odds of returning to Cleveland because of his history with Beilein and the coaching staff, but again, most likely not.
2019-2020 early expectations
It’s far too early to predict the Cavaliers 2019-2020 season, as the NBA Draft and training camp hasn’t even happened yet. If the front office hits on their first-round picks and the young players continue to develop, the Cavaliers still won’t compete for the playoffs.
Beilein and the staff need a few years to develop their players. Sexton and Osman continued to improve steadily over the course of last season, but it will likely take them another year or two solidify their roles as perennial starters.
Given their poor financial flexibility next season, the Cavaliers can’t attract free agents, making the 2019-2020 season a true challenge for the organization.
If each player steadily improves their game, most notably Sexton and Osman, and the organization absolutely nails their first-round selections, the Cavaliers are realistically looking at a 34-36 win season. Beilein should get the most out his player development, but the Cavaliers roster still won’t be enough to earn a playoff spot in the weaker Eastern Conference. However, these things could easily change.
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